“Our attention to detail wasn’t nearly close to where it needs to be,” interim head coach Rick Bowness said after the game. He said that the Stars felt they gave Toronto three goals tonight.
He wasn’t wrong. Three of the five goals against (one was an empty-netter, to be fair) were easily traced back to poor decisions made either with the puck or with defensive coverage miscues. The mental side of the game can be as grueling as the physical, and tonight proved that you have to have the mental side to dream of winning games in this league.
One good trend that Dallas has shown since their bye break is better starts to games. First versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and then again against the Leafs, Dallas came out relatively dominating the opposition. They’re wracking up early shots on goal leads, and getting some good offensive looks.
But that only lasted for so long. When the Leafs were able to adjust and start dictating their style of play, the Stars got put on their heels a bit. That’s when the first of the night’s three goals gifted to Toronto happened.
Dallas got caught puck-watching, and left the one guy on the Toronto squad you really don’t want to leave uncovered: Auston Matthews. He was able to score right on Ben Bishop’s doorstop thanks to the defensive breakdown by the Stars.
Denis Gurianov continues to be a bright spot, turning on the jets after accepting the John Klingberg pass in neutral ice and torching the Leafs team to even the game up before the period ended:
Dallas all but dominated the second period, running up quality scoring chances to the tune of doubling those counted for Toronto:
#TORvsDAL QSC* By Skater After 40:#GoStars: (18)— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) January 30, 2020
Comeau - 3
Dowling - 2
Klingberg - 1
Hyman - 2
Barrie - 1
*(By my unofficial count)
Of course, Dallas came out of the period down a goal. That’s how it seems to go for this team when they aren’t in some kind of grind-it-out style game. Instead, Toronto beat them on their own poor plays with the puck.
The first goal of the period, scored by Zach Hyman, was a result of Hyman skating right past Joe Pavelski. Pavelski was covering him, and by the time that coverage got blown, Esa Lindell had successfully switched his coverage off with Miro Heiskanen, leaving Lindell floating in no-man’s land on the goal. Ben Bishop opened his five hole just enough for Hyman’s shot to slip right through as the goaltender moved to square up to the shooter.
The second goal was the result of a very poor decision with the puck by Jamie Oleksiak. Instead of a hard clearing attempt out of his own zone from behind the goal line, Oleksiak flung the puck back to the faceoff circle. One could only assume that he was assuming that a forward had come down to provide puck support. But that is not what had happened, and Andreas Johnsson corralled the puck. He rang the puck off the post, causing it to bounce out the other side. After touching Kasperi Kapanen’s stick, it landed right in Tyson Barrie’s stick. He floated it through traffic to put the Leafs up by two goals.
All was not lost in the period, however. Dallas was able to cut the score in half with less than a minute remaining in the period when Radek Faksa found a streaking Alexander Radulov coming off the bench. Completely uncovered, Faksa sent the cross-ice pass to him and Radulov buried it for his first of the evening.
Though they were down by one, Dallas had all the momentum swung in their direction to enter the third period.
The good feeling did not last all that long, though. Once again, Dallas all but beat themselves to let Toronto restore the two-goal lead just 3:28 into the period. This is where the play broke down:
Instead of continuing to track William Nylander, Oleksiak makes the decision to turn up the ice to cover...Alexander Kerfoot, presumably? Nevermind that Tyler Seguin and Radulov could easily handle him, since they’re both positioned right at him. Oleksiak’s decision leaves Nylander to continue to float all the way towards the net, and nobody on the team realized he was uncovered. The puck inevitably landed at his feet off a point shot, where he was positioned nicely put home the rebound.
Dallas didn’t stop trying to generate some offense and get back into the game. Three minutes later, Radulov scored his second of the night when he barely tipped in a Miro Heiskanen shot. (Of all the things that can be complained about with the Stars currently, Heiskanen remains one of the brightest of bright spots to watch game-in and game-out.)
The power play once again proved fruitless in coming up with scoring when the team really needed it the most. “It’s frustrating, obviously, but like I said — there was a streak when we were scoring every game and everything seems to go well,” Radulov said after the game. He said they need to simplify their game on the power play.
Maybe hitting the road here will give the team the chance to do just that.